Thursday, November 10, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
I had two clients' books hit the Times list over the summer, I'm happy to report. Laurie Notaro's IT LOOKED DIFFERENT ON THE MODEL and Celia Rivenbark's YOU DON'T SWEAT MUCH FOR A FAT GIRL.
Both have terrific websites and Facebook pages. Celia is also on Twitter.
And so here is what I have to say about this, beyond CONGRATULATIONS FUNNY LADIES. (It always takes me a while to get to the point):
SOCIAL MEDIA, PEOPLE. SOCIAL MEDIA. These two authors *get* it. They practice it. And it pays off in their success.
Published author, not-published-yet author, it applies to both of you. It's a brave new world, and finally authors have the power in their own hands to really truly influence their own sales. It's enormously exciting. But it's not easy. You have to hustle, hustle, hustle. You know who else is great at this? My new client Melissa Foster. Her salient info:
I pride myself on my Klout score (www.Klout.com) which is right around 64, give or take a point. Do you want to know Melissa's Klout score? A whopping 74. That's celebrity level, folks. Melissa is out there, all the time, promoting her books, yes, but also, significantly, working to help other authors, posting inspirational tweets and useful links. She connects, she doesn't just publicize. Not surprising that her self-published and small press-published books are hitting the Amazon bestseller lists and selling at ever higher five figure levels each month.
What I don't want to hear is that you don't know how to do it or what to do. The information is out there. So many smart, successful writers are blogging and tweeting essential tips for promoting yourself via social media that all you have to do, honestly, is start with a google search. If you need more guidance take an online social media course like the ones offered by Galleycat or Penelope Trunk.
Another reason why you can't afford not to do this. Social media is free. It takes time to learn and master, but it is free. And I think it is far more effective than many of the things that authors pay for, such as traditional publicity targeting print media. Or running advertisements.
My take is that social media works so well because it helps you create community and that creates readers who come back to buy you again and again. Read a business classic called 1:1 Marketing by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, agented by my long-ago boss, the incredibly savvy Rafe Sagalyn. It talks about creating loyal customers one at a time. Reaching and connecting with just one reader is far more valuable than sending out a generic message to one hundred folks or even a thousand. Make those connections with your readers: talk to them on twitter and introduce them to one another on Facebook. Create a mailing list so they can get new information from you, perhaps deleted scenes or a character who didn't ultimately make the book. Make your readers feel part of something, included, invested. The more you connect with them the more they will help you spread the word about what a great writer you are.
Published authors, if you don't "get" social media, there are plenty of people out there that do. You owe it to yourself and to your sales figures to start connecting. If there's no time, you can do what many of my clients do and hire someone to help you or find an intern at the local college.
That's my back-to-work pep talk for today, folks.
P.S. Because I try to practice what I preach, you can also follow *me* on twitter: @jennybent
Monday, September 5, 2011
Friday, August 19, 2011
Send us an e-mail to email@example.com. Tell us why you want the internship and something about yourself, or include a resume if you have one (but it's not necessary). Include two lists: the last ten books you read and your ten favorite books of all time. We ask for a ten hour a week commitment at the minimum.
We usually get a great many applicants and the application period will close fairly quickly: watch this space and twitter (@susanhawk) for details.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Here is a new post in the "How I Found My Agent" series, by author Marta McDowell, who, full disclosure, happens to be my aunt.
I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, "How annoying. If I were lucky enough to have an agent in my family, I wouldn't be trolling the internet reading agency blogs." BUT. There is something to learn here, something very important about writing non-fiction. If you read this post you will see that nepotism only goes so far. When Marta approached me with her idea--to write about Emily Dickinson's gardens--I had to tell her it was a no-go because she was missing two things: credentials and platform. I am approached all the time by authors who want to write non-fiction about topics like parenting, business, health, travel. But just because you have an interest in a certain topic doesn't mean that you get to write a book about it.
In Marta's case, she liked gardening and she liked the topic of gardens in history, so she wanted to write about it. But that wasn't enough. And so, what's amazing about Marta is that when I explained to her about credentials and platform, she didn't get discouraged. No, she went right off and started DOING. I love this about her, and not just because she's my aunt. She started small, writing for smaller gardening publications, and worked her way up to the New York Times. That's the credentials part.
She went back to school for garden design and then started teaching at the New York Botanical Gardens. She traveled and did lectures. That's the platform part. All of this took her five long years, but she never gave up on her dream. And yes, we sold her book.
The moral? Determination, my friends. You might certainly get one lucky break along the way, like having an agent in the family. But one lucky break does not a book deal make (hey, that rhymes!). Are you having trouble getting an agent/book deal? You must keep trying. You must keep learning. You must keep DOING.
And there's a postscript. We just closed a new deal for Marta's next book, Beatrix Potter's Gardens, with Timber Press.
When I was well into young adulthood, my father advised, “make money the old fashioned way: marry it.” While the money part didn’t quite work out, it is the way I met my agent. Jenny Bent’s father is my husband’s brother. In short, my niece.
At the end of the nineties, tired of a career at Prudential, I thought it was high time for my mid-life crisis. Why not trade in the corporate ladder for the family tree?
As I’d always been a gardener and written mountains of memoranda, reports and marketing literature, I thought I might try my hand at garden writing. So picture me, the queen of naïve, off to meet with Jenny at her office on West 53rd Street in New York.
I remember a few things from that day. First, Jenny wore great shoes. Being functionally unable to balance on spikes, that stuck in my mind. The pilot episodes of Sex and the City were just showing on HBO, so there was that Carrie Bradshaw connection. The second was Jenny’s solar plexus punch of honesty. “To write non-fiction, you have to be somebody. So go be somebody and come back and see me.”
Stunned. Jenny softened the blow, explaining that my resume was great if I wanted a new job in my current line of work. But if I wanted to be a garden writer, I needed credentials in gardening. If I wanted to sell a book, I needed a platform from which to promote it.
So I did. I started writing garden pieces as a volunteer for local newsletters, worked up to national magazines like Woman’s Day and got an editorial published in The New York Times. I earned a certificate in Landscape Design from the New York Botanical Garden, then started teaching there. I lectured, I wrote, I consulted, I gardened, and, about five years after our first meeting, I went back to see Jenny.
I knew what, or in this case whom I wanted to write about: Emily Dickinson and her gardening interests. But other than doing background research, I really didn’t know how to proceed. Let me introduce the next incarnation of Jenny – as teacher and sounding board.
She asked me questions. “How would you structure the material? What do you want to tell the reader? Who is your reader?” We settled on a seasonal approach, intertwining information about Dickinson’s gardening interests and plants with her life story. Jenny led me thorough the sections of a proposal and gave me a sample from one of her other successful writers. We discussed marketing strategies and audience draw, comparable titles and the importance of a detailed chapter outline. Then back I went across the Hudson to my desk in Jersey to begin.
Fast forward, the proposal is finished. I send it off to Jenny, and I’m feeling up. “Not so hard, I think. This could work!” Then Jenny’s marked up copy arrives. Let’s just say that my underlying copy looked like the victim of a teen slasher movie. And, dang, her questions and comments were on point. Rewrite!
We went through several gory rounds until, suitably humbled, I produced a far better proposal than I had at the start. Then Jenny went into high gear, that mysterious process of creating a submission list (how does she know so many publishers?), making contacts, and selling the book. She was my representative, a better me. While there were a number of rejections, there was one happy acceptance. McGraw-Hill Contemporary published Emily Dickinson’s Gardens in 2005.
Jenny was my toughest editor, and I’m fortunate that she was my first. She got me ready, suitably armored for the marathon gestation period that is writing a book. Her standards are so high that I compare every editor against her yardstick. That she is part of my family is a great stroke of luck or divine intervention. In fact, when in doubt about anything writing-related I just think, “What would Jenny do?”
Marta McDowell's website is: http://www.martamcdowell.com/
Follow her on twitter: @martamcdowell
Monday, July 25, 2011
Jenny’s Conference Schedule
September 9-10, SCBWI Eastern PA, First Looks and Critique Fest
October 22, Write Angles
South Hadley, MA
November 11 – 12, Atlanta Writers Conference
April 16-17, SCBWI Western Washington, Book to the Future
May 5-6, Grub Street Muse and the Marketplace
Susan’s Conference Schedule
Oct 14-16. SCBWI Canada East Fall Conference
SCBWI Eastern PA Pocono Retreat
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
A new post by Jennifer Archer in the "How I Found My Agent/How I Sold My First Book" series. I should preface this by saying that everything about Jenny's story goes against conventional wisdom. I'm sure I have counseled people against switching genre on panels, for example. But Jennifer has made it work for her, and there is a continuity of voice that is present in all of her writing which I believe has helped her bring readers with her as she's moved across genres. As well, all of her books have contemporary settings and the paranormal elements are "light" paranormal elements; she's not switching from women's fiction to heavy world-building. I think Jennifer's career has been about perseverance, really. She's stayed true to herself creatively, and I think that's the most important thing. Plus, she's a remarkable writer and a true joy to work with and that always helps. Her professionalism, talent and grace never cease to amaze me.
Over to Jennifer...
HOW I SOLD THREE "FIRST" NOVELS IN THREE DIFFERENT GENRES
As a writer, I am constantly reinventing myself. I’m not certain if it’s because I have eclectic taste in stories, I’m easily bored, or if I just can’t make up my mind. Maybe it’s a little of all three.
My first novel was called SHADOWS OF DOUBT, and it never sold despite being nominated twice for the RWA Golden Heart Award and winning or placing in various other contests. SHADOWS OF DOUBT was a romantic suspense novel. I loved the romantic suspense genre (and still do), but while I was shopping my book to literary agents and publishers, another story idea took root in my mind and refused to wither and die. That book was BODY AND SOUL, my debut, and it is a quirky, funny paranormal romance. When BODY AND SOUL sold to a publisher, I thought I’d found my niche – my brand: I would be the Queen of Quirky Romantic Comedy with a Paranormal Twist. I could be happy with that. Or so I thought at the time.
I wrote and sold a second novel in the same quirky genre, and it was after that book’s release that I found my agent, Jenny Bent. Jenny liked my zany paranormal romantic comedies. In fact, I had decided to query her after seeing her listing in the Romance Writer’s Report, stating that among other genres, she was looking for just the sort of books I was writing. After I signed with her, she made two more romantic comedy sales for me. We were a good fit. I wrote books that she liked and she was able to sell them.
Then something happened. My writing changed, and so did I. I wanted to write a different kind of story. The problem was that I wasn’t sure what kind of story, I only knew that it wasn’t a quirky paranormal! I was at loose ends. I called Jenny, worried she’d decide that we should part ways since I wanted to walk away from an offer from my publisher for the sort of book she’d signed me to write. She would’ve had every right to let me go, and I would’ve understood, but class act that she is, Jenny did no such thing. I still remember that phone call and what she said: “Take some time to experiment and when you decide what you want to do, I’ll be here.” Every writer should be so lucky to have such an agent – one who understands the creative ups and downs that writers sometimes experience.
Over the next two years, I worked on two different novels – a women’s fiction and a young adult. Occasionally I sent pages to Jenny, but I began having serious doubts that I’d ever sell again. I asked myself if I’d made a mistake by walking away from a contract for another romantic comedy with my prior publisher. Then, quite unexpectedly, Jenny called one day to ask how much of the women’s fiction novel I had finished. How quickly could I write the synopsis? Harlequin was starting a new women’s fiction line of “light lit.” Jenny said my novel was exactly the sort of story they wanted. That novel, SANDWICHED, became one of the launch books for the Harlequin NEXT line and my debut in women’s fiction. I had to set aside the young adult novel I’d been sporadically working on to write five more books for Harlequin NEXT.
When the NEXT line folded, I knew that the best move for my career would be to write more women’s fiction and market it to a different publisher. I loved writing women’s fiction, and my books for NEXT had been well received by readers – one of them, THE ME I USED TO BE, had been nominated for a Rita. But although women’s fiction was a perfect fit for me, the story of sixteen year old Tansy Piper and the seventeen year old ghost named Henry who haunts her stayed on my mind. Once again, I followed my heart instead of logic; I pulled out that young adult novel that I’d set aside, finished it, and sent it off to Jenny. She said it was the best thing I’d ever written and began shopping it to publishers, all of whom promptly rejected it!
Devastated, I put the book away again. I ghostwrote a business book and hated every minute of it. Then my prior publisher asked me to write a women’s fiction novella. I happily complied, convinced it would be the last piece of fiction I’d ever publish. The week that the anthology with my novella in it was released, I heard that my publisher was starting a new Young Adult line. I emailed Jenny and asked if she thought we should submit my book. She said ‘yes,’ but that enough time had passed that we could do another round of submissions to other publishers, as well; many of the editors at the publishing houses we had submitted to before had changed. Hopeful again, I did a light revision. Jenny sent the book out. More rejections followed. And then came two offers! I signed a contract with Harper Teen, and I rejoiced. My story had a home! My characters would live!
THROUGH HER EYES was released in April, 2011. Whenever I look at it, I think of the persistence it took to get it published. Persistence on both my part, and Jenny’s. And I thank my lucky stars that I have an agent who believes in my work and never gives up.
I have a second YA novel coming out next year, and I’m working on an idea for a possible third. And then there’s that other idea . . . the one that creeps up on me from time to time lately, the one whose characters have started whispering in my ear. The story is different than anything else I’ve ever written before – but you already guessed that, right?
Jennifer's latest release is THROUGH HER EYES, published by HarperTeen. Her website is http://jenniferarcher.net/ and you can find her on twitter at @jenniferarcher1
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Friday, June 17, 2011
I've been an avid reader and writer my entire life. As a child it was common for me to have dark circles under my eyes from staying up into the wee hours to read. I've journaled since I could write a complete sentence and throughout my life I have been told repeatedly, “You should write a book.”
I wanted to, I really did. I wanted to be a writer but I had no idea what to write about. I was good at expressing myself in words but I wasn't creating new worlds or going all J.K. Rowling in my free time. Reading and writing were private passions until my third child was born. Three daughters in four years, it's all a blur. Do the math, people. That's a lot of crazy.
I was writing about my kids extensively, because that's what I do. I am compelled to write about my life. But because my husband and I lived hundreds of miles from our families, I was also sending out mass emails on a daily and weekly basis to update our families on our shenanigans. And I heard it again and again, “You should write a book.” (Please note: this doesn't always mean you should and I realized that this was my mom and she might be a little biased.) I thought I might have an audience when my family members started forwarding my emails to everyone in their contact lists and I began receiving feedback from people I didn't know. I started a blog and somehow convinced the editor of our local paper to let me write a weekly family humor column.
I realized I had plenty of material and a subject matter that I loved. I started writing furiously. I wrote while I fed my baby. I wrote while my two-year-old and four-year-old napped. I bugged the crap out of all my book whore friends-- because avid readers make great betas. I asked for feedback from anyone who was willing to give it. I joined my local Writer's Association and started going to group meetings to get feedback from people who weren't my mother.
I ordered books about writing query letters. I quietly stalked the Query Shark and any other resource I could find online and started writing drafts of my letter. I purchased 'The Writers Market' and started looking for agents who represented non-fiction humor and women's interest books. And I sent out my first few queries.
I queried widely and was rejected widely. Every time an agent was kind enough to tell me why they said no I did what I could to change that part of my letter. I read as much as I could in my genre and poured over the acknowledgments to see if the author had thanked her agent and I made a magical discovery. My three favorite humorists all thanked their agent-- Jenny Bent. And when I say “favorite” writers, I mean like The-Beatles-Favorite. Like if I saw them in person, I would hyperventilate and pass out.
I began stalking Jenny. Not scary-stalking, let's all remember that I had three kids under four years old. I didn't have time to wipe after I peed, much less be threatening and what not. But I began reading interviews with Jenny online, learning what she was looking for and what she liked to read. I read her client's blogs and one of them even sent me a copy of her query letter.
By the time I wrote my query to Jenny, I felt like I knew her. The letter I wrote to her was more personal and more reflective of my writing style than any of the others. But still, before I pressed, 'Send,' I almost chickened out. Jenny Bent was totally out of my league. As other agents had pointed out my one little local newspaper column wasn't a big enough platform. This was my first book, and many authors never get their first book published.
Another agent had a requested a partial and a book proposal and I was waiting to hear back from her. My last thought before I sent the email was, “It's not going to hurt anything to send it. She'll probably never read it anyway.”
I received an email within the week from one of Jenny's readers saying Jenny wanted to read the full manuscript and I almost blacked out. I sent the manuscript and tried not to think about the fact that the agent who represented three of the funniest women on the planet had my manuscript and was actually reading it.
I received an email from Jenny's assistant only a couple of weeks later saying (this is burned into my brain forevermore) “Jenny is on a plane, doubled over in laughter reading your manuscript. She wants to offer you representation and would like to set up a time to talk to you.”
I screamed so loudly I woke up all three of my sleeping children. (Waking children during nap-time is a mortal sin and I've almost popped a cap in the UPS man for ringing my doorbell before. Even though he was bringing me magical under-eye makeup from Sephora.) I ran screaming through my yard to my neighbor's house and almost gave her heart attack.
This wasn't supposed to happen. Authors don't get signed from the slush pile. Not to high caliber agents. But I did. Jenny Bent is careful with her queries, people. She doesn't want to miss anything.
For the last two years, Jenny has been an amazing mentor and editor. Her first revisions, though VERY kind and 100% accurate, hurt. We cut over half of the material and did a major rewrite. But she saw my strengths and my potential. Her advice helped me find my voice. She encouraged me to focus on my strengths and to throw away what was subpar. She helped me shape my manuscript into a book that we both love.
My platform has grown. I have self-syndicated my column in three states. I have found outlets online and in print for my writing. And while I've been “waiting for something to happen” I wrote another book. I have learned that publishing is a slooooooow business and I haven't published anything, yet. But I know I will. Because I believe in myself, and so does Jenny Freakin' Bent.
Read the best of Robin's Chicks, Robin's blog about about surviving motherhood with three daughters and a sense of humor. Learn helpful tips such as: how to breastfeed behind your back*, how to talk to your daughters about male genitalia, and how to write a pet obituary.
*Only applies to lactating women with a DD cup or larger.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
This post is from my lovely and incredibly talented client Lori Roy, whose first novel BENT ROAD published in April. I love stories like this one because once again it disproves the notion of "overnight" success--Lori had been writing for 12 years before we decided to work together to sell her book. I didn't know about a lot of the things that were happening behind the scenes until I read this: I love how Lori approached the process with such determination and organization!
And yes, I did tell Lori her query letter wasn't very good! In retrospect, I probably could have been a little more tactful, but it's further proof that writing a great book and writing a good query letter are two completely different skill sets. Asking for the first ten pages as part of my query guidelines is my way of looking beyond a query letter that might not adequately represent the genius of the book that is being pitched.
Now, over to Lori:
April 16, 2009 5:06 a.m.
From: Lori Roy
To: Jenny Bent
Query – Bent Road
I attack the querying process with a spreadsheet. It’s seven columns wide, several rows long and must be printed on legal paper. The names of literary agents run down the side of the spreadsheet and the columns are labeled name, address, genre, email, snail mail, submission guidelines, miscellaneous. I approach my queries as I approached the audit workpapers I prepared when I was a tax accountant. I label my spreadsheets, tick and tie addresses I have confirmed, highlight my research with a yellow marker. I wore blue suits and pantyhose in my accountant days. Now I wear Levis with holes in the knees, but I can still format a nice spreadsheet.
After all my research and all my organization—each printout three-hole punched and stored in a two inch binder—it is a connection who helps me land an agent. I met her four years earlier at a writers’ conference. She lives in Sweden. We’ll call her the Swede. She emails with news that Jenny Bent has recently started her own agency and is accepting submissions. The Swede has followed Jenny’s career for years. You should give her a try, the Swede says. I scan my spreadsheet, and there she is. Jenny Bent. I check her submission guidelines, attach the first ten pages of BENT ROAD, my query letter and press send. Jenny is the ninth agent I query.
April 19th, 2009 8:52 p.m.
From: Jenny Bent
To: Lori Roy
Could you please send the entire manuscript for BENT ROAD?
I read all the blogs, so I know I have a few currents to navigate. Two partials of BENT ROAD are currently with other agents. I believe in common courtesy, and while my insecurities make it difficult for me to believe the other agents will care, I email them that I have had a request for my full manuscript. They respond promptly with their appreciation. My first instinct upon receiving this request from Jenny is to press reply, attach and send, but I resist. Instead, I stay up most of the next two nights to read and re-read my manuscript. The second time through, I read it out loud. I’m hoarse by the time I email it to Jenny on April 21, 2009.
May 4, 2009 9:26 p.m.
From: Jenny Bent
To: Lori Roy
I loved reading this book. Could we set up a time to talk tomorrow? Do let me know.
I’m still wearing my PJs when I read this email at 6:00 a.m. on the morning of May 5th. I run upstairs to tell Husband who is sipping his first cup of coffee. She wants to talk tomorrow, I say to Husband, and then turn and run back to my computer. The email was sent the night before, which means she wants to talk today.
I email the Swede to share the news. I email another friend for advice on what to ask an agent. Again, I’ve read all the blogs. I know what a writer is supposed to ask, but because I’ve highlighted my research, labeled my workpapers, three-hole punched my printouts, I already know the answers to those standard questions. The smartest thing I did when setting out to find an agent—I only queried the agents I would be privileged to work with.
We trade a few emails throughout the day, Jenny and I. I send my phone number and times when I’m available, which is any time because it would take a crowbar and a book of matches to pry me away from the phone. She emails that she is having a crazy day and won’t be able to call until tonight. In the mean time…
May 5, 2009 11:29 a.m.
From: Jenny Bent
To: Lori Roy
…So as not to keep you in suspense, I am calling to offer representation.
I’ve been writing for almost twelve years by the time I open this email. I’ve collected countless rejection letters from literary journals—really they were rejection slips of paper. I’ve attended several writers’ conferences, lectures and readings. I’ve read books on writing, studied with gifted teachers, met great friends. I’ve struggled to understand the four fallacies, humbled myself to the concept of plot and beaten the adverbs out of my vocabulary. I’ve spent hours sitting at a desk, ashamed that I’m wasting my time. I’ve written badly, very badly. I’ve written two other novels that hide on the lowest shelves in my office. I’ve spent a year and a half writing BENT ROAD. I can’t say how many drafts I’ve been through. I lost track after the sixth. I’ve read it out loud so many times, looking for and listening for the clunkers, that the manuscript induces nausea. And there it is in a single line in a single email. Representation.
The phone rings in the early evening. Husband answers it. He calls the person on the other end Ms. Bent and hands me the phone. To avoid the chaos in my house, I take the call on the deck. In front of me lies my list of questions. I ask none of them, because when the moment arises, they all seem ridiculous. I already know who Jenny represents. I know how long she’s been an agent, where she’s worked, and because of blogs and online interviews, I have a good idea of her personality and work ethic. I know she will represent me and my book with professionalism, enthusiasm and perseverance. When the phone call ends, I am represented by Jenny Bent.
June 11, 2009 12:29 p.m.
From: Jenny Bent
To: Lori Roy
I start this day blow drying my hair while crying hysterically. Husband asks me what’s wrong. It’s auction day for BENT ROAD, and I fear the auctioning block will turn into a chopping block. I’m afraid no one will show up for the auction and that BENT ROAD will be unsold at day’s end. I fear I’ll have to show the determination and belief that so many other authors have had to muster. I fear I won’t have it. “It’ll be a good day,” Husband says.
I’m at work—a part-time tax gig—when I receive this email from Jenny. CALL ME. I make up an excuse to leave the office for a few minutes. I write fiction. It isn’t hard to come up with something. I know it’s best that I not make the call while driving. Instead, I pull into the parking lot at Haslam’s Book Store. (Almost two years later, I will hold my first book signing at this store.) Jenny picks up on the other end immediately. We have an offer, she says. The auction continues throughout the day. I go back to the office. Don’t get much done. I pick up Daughter from tennis practice. She’s hungry, so we stop at the drive-through at Checkers. Husband brings homes roses. The family takes me to dinner. By Monday morning, the deal is done. Bent Road by Lori Roy is sold by Jenny Bent to Dutton Senior Editor Denise Roy. (No relation.)
June 16, 2009 3:59 p.m.
From: Denise Roy (Senior Editor – Dutton/ Penguin)
To: Lori Roy
Denise emails me her contact information, and we get acquainted over the phone. We laugh about the coincidence that has brought our three names together under this book deal. We discuss revisions. She sends me notes. A writer friend offers me advice. You don’t have to make all the changes your editor suggests, he says. But she’s always right, I say. Denise and I work our way through two rounds of revisions. I don’t appreciate how wildly insecure I am until I experience the revision process. Denise is aware long before me. She is kind and tempered with her suggestions. She is always right.
Three months after the auction, the contract is final. Jenny handles the negotiations, informing me along the way. She looks out for my best interest, while I would give away the deed to my house. I cower in the corner, watch through my tightly knit fingers. I exhale when the ink is dry.
October 27, 2009 10:21 a.m.
From: Jenny Bent
To: Lori Roy
MS Accepted ….Hooray
The revisions are done and the manuscript is accepted just in time for my visit to New York. I am reading a Harlan Coben novel when I begin my descent into LaGuardia. I see the Statue of Liberty, look down on the Coben novel—also published by Dutton—and feel a bit queasy. It occurs to me that people will read my book, too.
I meet Jenny for lunch—a cute little restaurant in Soho. We talk kids, next book ideas and about my query letter that she tells me wasn’t very good. She soothes my ego by reminding me that I’ll never have to write one again. Jenny leaves me in the lobby at 375 Hudson Street—Dutton’s corporate offices. Denise and I find another Soho restaurant and we toast BENT ROAD with a cabernet.
At year’s end, the copyedited manuscript is delivered. Copyeditor catches my dangling modifiers and suggests I use sit instead of set. In April 2010, I secure my domain name. I’m a website now. The proofreader has a few questions for me in May, and on May 26, my baby gets a face when Monica Benalcazar distills 368 pages into a beautiful, haunting, perfect image.
October 27, 2010 3:29 p.m.
From: Ava Kavyani (Publicist—Dutton/Penguin)
To: Lori Roy
Hello from Publicity
I’m blogging every week, have a facebook page and dabble in Twitter. I’m not as good at this as others, so I watch and learn and try to spend my time wisely. Many things are happening on behalf of BENT ROAD within the halls of the Dutton/Penguin offices. I only work with a handful of people and ask them to thank the folks I won’t ever meet through an email or phone call.
It’s a rainy Sunday morning in December when I find my first review. I’m googling myself and there it is. Kirkus—a starred review. I cause a thud when I jump out of bed. Husband comes running. I check again. And again. Yes, a starred review. Other reviews will follow—The Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, AP, People Magazine, St. Pete Times, The Sun Sentinel. I am working the concession stand at Son’s baseball game when I pick up another email from Ava. BENT ROAD launches in two weeks. Marilyn Stasio will be reviewing it for the New York Times, Ava writes. Why are you crying, Daughter asks as she makes change for the Gatorade she just sold. “It’s Marilyn Stasio,” I say. “It’s the New York Times.”
March 31, 2011
It’s publication day for BENT ROAD. I start my day being interviewed by the Tampa Tribune. Husband sends flowers. They’re waiting for me at the coffee shop where I meet the journalist. I spend the rest of the day at home. We’re under a severe weather warning. The windows are leaking. I stuff towels in the sills.
My first signing is well attended. We sell all but a few copies. There are more signings. I arrive thirty minutes early at each one. At my first reading, a photographer perches on the floor about three feet in front of me, and as I read, his camera goes click, click, click. Shoulders back, I tell myself. Chin high. Breathe. Don’t read too quickly. Click, click, click.
There will be more book events in the future. I have a few book festivals planned, a few more in the works. I’ll continue to blog and tweet and facebook. I’ll meet with my writing group and skype with my writing friends. I’ll continue to read great writers and study with great teachers. And now that I find myself with a book sitting on the shelves of many book stores, I am quite certain of the most important thing a writer can do after selling a book. Write the next book and when that is done, write the next.
Lori's website is www.loriroy.com. Follow her on twitter: @Loriroyauthor.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
HOW I GOT (THE RIGHT) AGENT. AT LAST. IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING.
This story has a happy ending, but it’s a bit of a cautionary tale, too.
Part of the reason I write is because it scares me silly to deal face-to-face with bosses, editors, agents, anyone in power.
Even with trusted friends, I’m not a great conversationalist. I rarely win an argument. I can’t tell a joke. When someone makes me uncomfortable, I babble. Writing feels safer because it lets me edit what I want to say.
In the early days, I was comforted by the fact that manuscripts were submitted and returned by mail. No one could see if I burst into tears after a humiliating rejection. There was a (to me) critical and essential privacy in this. I wasn’t being judged by the way I looked or how well I could think on my feet. I was being judged solely on the writing.
My first agent came to me through the recommendation of one of his clients (still the best way to get an agent, in my opinion). He sold my first novel, Safe Passage, and helped broker the deal that made it into a movie starring Susan Sarandon. We talked on the phone so many times before we met that I didn’t feel intimidated. If I babbled during our first face-to-face, he pretended not to notice. We stayed in touch for years.
But then he was gone, and it was the era of writers’ conferences – hundreds of them, always with agents and editors to pitch to, as well as writers like me who gave the craft seminars. The agents tended to stick together (or so it seemed to me), more anxious to talk to each other than to not-yet-published wannabes or not-yet-famous staff, except during scheduled appointments..
Was I going to sit across the table from one of them and give my two-minute pitch?
Not a chance.
But one day at lunch I sat next to a man so pleasant and unthreatening that I didn’t realize he was an agent until halfway through the meal. Disarmed, I shed my anxieties and phobias long enough to tell him about my work. A few weeks later, I became his client.
He was a nice man, but as it turned out, not a very good agent for me.
I write complex women’s fiction. He sold mostly romances. If I’d done a little research, I would have known that. Instead of following my own advice to judge by the work and not the personality, I’d formed a binding relationship with someone I trusted simply because he was easy to talk to.
From the beginning, we weren’t a good match. The sales he made for me weren’t what I was looking for. I stuck it out longer than I should have because it was easier than a personal confrontation. Finally, I put my current project in a drawer and said I had nothing to show him.
The only one who got hurt by this was me.
So there I was, agent-less, with a finished book sitting in a drawer, when I began hearing about Jenny Bent. She’d made good sales for several writers I knew, including my friend Donna, who invited her to be on a panel about writing effective first pages. On the program, Jenny was articulate and intelligent, and clearly knew exactly what she wanted. Donna urged me to introduce myself to her. But when she finished speaking, she was surrounded. No wonder. She was capable, tough, hugely in demand, exactly the kind of agent I wanted. I fled.
Donna had seen my cloistered novel and pronounced it ready for market. “You should query Jenny,” she insisted. “You don’t have to face her in person. What are you afraid of? All you have to do is send an email.”
Bullied into it, I did.
Jenny was every bit as tough-minded as I’d imagined – but tough in the gentlest way. She made lots of suggestions. They always struck me as thoughtful, helpful, right. She spent hours thinking up just the right title for the novel. She seemed, truly, to care about it. Months later, after I’d made the changes we agreed on, she sold THE ART OF SAYING GOODBYE to HarperCollins in less than a week.
I finally met Jenny in person on a trip to New York for the terrifying task of being introduced to my editor. It was a warm, rainy day. My hair had frizzed into its distinctly un-suave natural state, a kinky bubble around my head. Jenny arrived looking sleek in a khaki raincoat, her short blonde hair elegantly cut, elegantly tidy. She seemed not to notice my disarray. As we walked together into the massive HarperCollins building, I realized how much having the right agent at my side was taking the pressure off.
Even so, I was nervous enough to fear I’d jabber aimlessly when we got upstairs – and as memory serves, I did.
They published my book anyway.
Ellyn's website is: http://ellynbache.com/
Monday, May 9, 2011
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Friday, April 29, 2011
This is an eclectic list, so obviously you don't need to like everyone on it! But basically, you should like at least one of the following genres: humor, memoir, upmarket women's fiction and literary suspense
I should say, because I forgot to say it in regard to the other internship posting, that you do not need to have any kind of publishing experience or even publishing aspirations. We are just looking for people who love books and love to read.
Please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put "internshiptwo" in the subject line. Tell us why you want the internship, attach a resume if you have one although it's not essential, and list the last ten books you read and your ten favorite books.
Please do not apply if you are primarily a young adult/middle grade reader. It's fine if you do some of that, but we already have our young adult/middle grade specialists in place.
If you have applied in the past you are more than welcome to apply again.
And don't forget to apply for the romance internship! We are looking for obsessive romance readers. Also send to email@example.com
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
I think I said that the short answer was "sort of," and that it was complicated and I should probably blog about it, so here I am.
This is a tough one. I can't speak for other agents but I know personally that this is a hard question to answer honestly. Put it this way: intellectually speaking, do I ever regret passing on a book? No. I do not. Rationally, I know that if I didn't see the book's potential then I wouldn't have been a good advocate for it. Or if it wasn't a good fit for my list then I wouldn't have known how to sell it--what the competition was or which editors to send it to.
But emotionally? In the middle of the night when I can't sleep? Do I regret passing on a book that someone else sold for a lot of money or that is now on the bestseller list? Well, what do you think? OF COURSE I REGRET IT.
Let's go back to the rational Jenny who is now soundly kicking the ass of emotional dark-night-of-the-soul Jenny. "Listen to me, and suck it up you sniveling pansy," she says.
For there is not one agent on the planet that likes every single book on the NYT bestseller list. For every book on that list there are agents who passed on it and editors who passed on it and it's just part of the business. There's even a "fun" game we agents and editors like to play called "Well, I passed on X." The bigger and more successful X is, the more you up the ante. It's not a game you really like to win of course, but it sure makes you feel better to play.
So do I regret it? Sort of. Not really. Kind of. Mostly no.
And why am I sharing this, you ask? I guess it's all part of my continuing efforts to show you that agents are people too.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell us about yourself, include a resume if you have one, but it's not necessary. Include two lists: the last ten books you read and your ten favorite books of all time. We ask for a ten hour a week commitment at the minimum.
We usually get a great many applicants and so I close the application period fairly quickly: watch this space and also twitter for details.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
I think this topic has been done to death, but just in case some of you were wondering why I wouldn’t want to represent a book that was certainly of publishable quality, or by most standards a “good” or “very good” book, here is a very short analogy.
You are at a bookstore. You pick up a book. You like it. It seems like a good book. It seems like a book that deserved to be published, at least in your opinion.
But today, you are only buying one book. You have a great many books at home already and you love them all. You have very limited shelf space and you don’t want to get rid of the books that you do love to make room for a book that you might not love as much. And so today, you will only bring home one, because that is what you have room for. Tomorrow, you might have more room. Perhaps you will have a new bookcase even. But today, there will only be one.
So you put back the book you really like, a little wistfully, because you know someone else will probably take it home, and you pick up the next book on the shelf. And you keep going, until you find the one that you love.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Well, (as I told him--he and I are used to disagreeing) blech. I've always found this kind of thinking a bit elitist and unnecessary and I always will. And as the climate has continued to change, I like to think that he's been proven wrong. There's still an argument for why some authors need publishing houses, of course, which is that publishers can often be better at marketing and publicity and distribution than any individual author can be. Increasingly this is not always the case (although even Amanda Hocking has now decided to go the traditional route), but that's a discussion for a later time. Today, I am somewhat gleefully celebrating the fact that electronic publishing is really blowing apart the thinking that we in publishing somehow know better and have better taste than the average reader. Why this would be the case I'm not sure. Because some of us have Ivy League educations? Because we live in NYC and therefore somehow more sophisticated and urbane than most readers? Because we read The Paris Review and The New Yorker? Because we have chic haircuts and ironic sideburns and wear trendy little eyeglasses? (Full disclosure: I do not have ironic sideburns.)
What I'm loving most about the success of independently published e-books is that many of them didn't pass the "gatekeeper" test--the individual author tried and failed to get an agent or publisher and decided to do it themselves. And now lots of these authors are getting lucrative book deals as publishers struggle to catch up. AND, many of them are turning down agents and publishers because they want to keep doing it on their own terms. This has always happened in publishing to a certain extent, of course. My client Laurie Notaro self-published years ago because she couldn't find a publisher after seven years of trying, and when she did get a publishing deal at long last, her book debuted at #7 on the Times list. The Shack was self-published. Richard Paul Evans' first book was self-published. The list goes on, these are just off the top of my head. But now, with e-publishing, it's easier than ever for an author to get their book out there, and the list of successfully self-published e-book authors is growing exponentially, every day.
Maybe I'm just bitter. An agent friend and I were e-mailing today about "reader taste" vs. "publisher taste." I think I've always had a case of "reader taste" because many of the books that I've really loved I've had a tough time selling or sold for very little money. Yet most of them have gone on to do very well indeed, many of them hitting the Times list. I would list them, but I'm not sure the authors would appreciate me telling the world that their book was hard to sell. Regardless, I loved these books, and I knew readers would love these books, but publishers often weren't so sure, probably because the books were considered "quiet,"i.e., not "high concept," or because they were aimed at readers in Middle America, or because they were quirky and hard to categorize.
Look, I don't want to be too hard on editors and publishers. We're all doing our best, after all, and publishing will always be something of a crap shoot, because we can't really afford to do market research (except for Harlequin) and rely on guesswork to make pretty major decisions about what to publish and promote. When publishers are "running numbers" to decide how much money they can afford to spend on a book, a big part of the process is comparing the book to another book that is similar, and then factoring in the sales figures of said book. Sound unscientific? You betcha. But in many cases we don't have that much more to go on; it's just the nature of the beast so to speak. With so little to go on, publishers really do have rely on marketing hooks, etc. in their decision-making. But it's still fun to gloat when a "quiet" book takes off because readers love it, not because it's based on some awesome concept.
So this has been a really rambling kind of post, but here's the whole point of it: to say, hooray for you writers out there who believe in yourselves enough to get your work out there by whatever means necessary. Hooray for your successes, hooray for your bravery, and hooray for the fact that every book you sell means you may be touching that reader's life in a powerful way. For isn't that why we're all in it? Even us gatekeepers.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
First, Julia London and Susan Mallery (not my client but oh so fabulous) are giving away an ipad! FABULOUS. Go to http://www.facebook.com/JuliaLondon for all the details.
Finally, to thank her readers and celebrate the upcoming release of her debut YA novel, THROUGH HER EYES, my client Jennifer Archer is giving away Kindles, iPods, leather journals and autographed books. Her THROUGH HER EYES Gargantuan Giveaway started March 1 and runs through April 4. Details for entering the drawing can be found on her website at http://www.jenniferarcher.net/news_events.html.